Jay Morton: Everest Summit #1
This would be my first summit of the highest mountain in the world. As a team we had done all our build-up training on a mountain called Manaslu which is the 8th highest in the world at 8053m. We made many mistakes on Manalsu which is a story in itself.
This resulted in us reaching around 7000m in highly avalanche-prone areas, some o the snow had already started to slide which was a big indicator. I turned around with my climbing partner at around 7000m and head back aborting the climb. We had learnt a lot of lessons from our failed attempt at Manalsu, we were all knew to high altitude climbing and we were independent as a team. But to take the positive from a bad or failed experience meant that we could go into our Everest Expedition knowing the lessons form Manaslu.
For people that don’t know how climbing Everest works. You climb it for around 6 weeks, which includes a walk into Base Camp which takes roughly 10 days. A period of rest and acclimatisation climbing which will see climbers climb to Camp 3 (7200m) for the body to adapt to the altitude. You will then sit at base camp acclimatised till there is a clear weather window that allows you to be able to climb to the Summit. Then from leaving base camp to summiting, to being back in base camp is around 7 days.
We climbed from base camp through the Kumbu Ice Fall to camp 2 in one go. The climb up to Camp 2 is a big U shaped valley which gets a lot of sun and sun reflection from the snow. The temperature can feel like it’s in the ’40s, at this point your serenely dehydrated and every step feels like you’re not making any distance.
We stayed at C2 for two nights as we wanted to rest well and the weather looked like we had a clear window to. The climb out up to C3 is steady and short, you leave C2 in the afternoon to climb the infamous Loste face. When you reach C3 you start on oxygen which is a great feeling as you get some energy back and can rest well (kind of).
We left C3 to climb to C4 at around 530am. It’s a long slog up to C4 on varying terrain, you start to notice the speed at which you can move start to slow down. We reached C4 for around 4 pm, it’s bare up there, skeletons of old tents and oxygen bottles cattier the area and sherpas and climbers are stood around in summit suits. When we arrived the wind had reached 90 mph and was ripping through the Sol Col area. We found our tent that had been placed by the sherpas but it was trashed and unusable. So we got the spare out and attempted to put it up in 90 mph winds. There was five of us that crammed into this tent to escape the howling wind.
We made some hot water and ate some food at which point I fell asleep. I don’t claim to be an expert at this but I’ve always trusted my intuition throughout my military and SF career, it got me out of a lot of shit. I woke up and stuck my hand out of the tent, the wind was still battering the tent but it felt warmer.
The head Sherpa Mingma had been out speaking to teams and apparently, some of the teams had turned around, most were going to roll their summit attempt 24 hours and a few solo or smaller teams had set off to attempt. There was a trickle of head touches beginning the route. We all sat there and stared at each other, warm in our sleeping bags. I remember Mingma looking at me and saying “what do we do Jay” I thought, “fuck it” if we attempt and the weather and wind is too bad we will be able to turn around and rest for 24 hours.
That was our worst-case or plan B.
We decided to attempt this because the bigger teams weren’t on the route, my sherpa had left me as he didn’t feel too well so I was on my own. I climbed as fast as I could with the fear that the weather would phage and I wouldn’t summit.
I must have seen around 3-4 people on the route it was bliss, I had the whole of mount Everest to myself, which is fairly unheard of. The weather had cleared, the wind had dropped and skies were clear. I reached the summit on my own at 0945. I pulled my phone out in an attempt to get proof, I took about 20 pictures before my phone stopped working because of the cold. I was stood on the summit of Everest on my own 19th May 2017, no one else. It felt surreal. I started to climb down to meet my climbing partner John.
I sat at the top point of the Hilary step as he came over we climbed to the summit together and managed to get more pictures before we safely climbed back down and returned to base camp for beers, food and a helicopter ride out of there.
That would be my first summit of an 8000m mountain and my first summit of Everest. The weeks after I would swear to myself that I wouldn’t come back. The body and mind forgets pain doesn’t it!
Little did I know that I would be back two years later for my second attempt.